What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Every once in a while I’ll come across something so quirky and intriguing that I must try it at least once. This happened recently during an impromptu trip to LA’s Grand Park. I’d seen an earlier Facebook post about an event celebrating the start of picnic season. That might sound a little strange considering LA gets pretty decent “picnic weather” year-round, but it didn’t stop me from grabbing my bag and heading to the park.
When I arrived I passed by several booths and a few food stations, including one where you can make your own kimchi and a mobile bread-baking oven. I stopped when I saw the hot pink and white sign that read “Butter Aerobics.”
I like butter, and I like aerobics. But combining the two? Curious, I asked the girl behind the booth what it was. She told me that it was a quick and easy way to churn butter in a jar while doing aerobics. It definitely piqued my interest.
My butter usually comes from the grocery store, so when I think of churning it I often imagine using a wooden plunger-looking device right out of Little House on the Prairie. Of course that’s only one way to make butter, but I thought you at least needed a food processor or a whisk for modern churning. So I was a little skeptical that shaking a jar of cream for several minutes would produce anything resembling butter.
Then I saw the “instructor,” a very funny and enthusiastic guy encouraging people to participate. Sporting tiny red running shorts, a baseball tee, and a matching headband/wristband set, he looked like an extra from an 80s workout video. Yep, I was sold! I signed up and grabbed my two jars of whipping cream.
I stood among the crowd listening to our instructor explain the process. The constant shaking would separate the fat from the milk. Once the butter was made we could save the buttermilk for pancakes, biscuits -- whatever we wanted.
The first thing we needed to do was make sure the lids were tightly secured. This would ensure that cream wouldn’t go flying out of the jars while shaking them. Once everyone was set, it was time to start churning.
The music starts. Classic pop songs from the 80s and 90s pump through the speakers. We start marching in place, which progresses to jogging in place while shaking our jars. My heart starts beating a little faster and I start to break a sweat.
I take a look at the cream sloshing around and I notice the foam. So far, so good.
Minutes pass and we’re varying the arm movements. With the jars acting as weights, I’m starting to feel the burn (err…churn) in my arms. I take another peek at my jars and I’m starting to notice some coagulation. Progress!
After a few more minutes of shaking my jars like maracas, I heard the magic words: “Stop Shaking, you’ve got butter.” Success!
At this point, we all crowd around the table and give our jars of newly-churned butter to the folks at the booth. After straining the butter in a colander to drain the excess buttermilk, our butter was flattened out a bit and packaged individually for us to take home.
Later that evening, I did a quick Google search on the session. I learned that our instructor is one half of an LA-based art duo called PopSoda. Their “Feel The Churn” workouts have been profiled in various media outlets across the US.
As musicians who love food, their Butter Aerobics workouts were apparently inspired by seeing commercials for gimmicky workout products like the Shake Weight (those commercials are just wrong).
Of course you won’t find this workout in a gym, a boot camp or even a cooking class. It’s simply a fun, if not silly, way to make butter while getting in a quick workout. That’s the kind of multitasking I like!
The next day I tried my creation on a sourdough roll and to my surprise, it was quite delicious. It was creamy and actually tasted like the store-bought kind. My kitchen skills are fairly basic -- my meals are edible and I know how to not give myself food poisoning. And while I’ve taken cooking classes before, the thought of making anything from scratch can seem a bit daunting at times.
Not only did I learn how easy it is to make butter, it also turns out that shaking jars of cream for 15 minutes can provide a nice arm workout. Overall it was a fun experience that has actually inspired me to attempt more DIY food projects and other food hacks. Off to Pinterest!